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When you’re visiting Philadelphia, look beyond cheesesteaks and the Liberty Bell – here are our best tips to escape the tourist crowds and see some of the city’s best kept secrets.
Forgo Independence Mall in favor of smaller historic sites in Old City, the city’s oldest district. Head to Front Street and check out Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously inhabited street in the entire country, where you can even tour one of these old houses.
Do as the locals do and skip downtown if you’re looking for a great spot for a bar crawl. Fishtown’s Frankford Avenue, its main thoroughfare, is populated with amazing spots including Root, Johnny Brenda’s, Frankford Hall, and more, which will keep you and your friends occupied for hours.
Every Wednesday, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is open until 8:45 pm, and entry is Pay What You Wish, so avoid the big crowds and see some of the world’s best collections by night. Every museum in Philadelphia is also free on the first Sunday of every month.
If you’re not an artsy person, try a different kind of museum – Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum is both one of the city’s most famous and underappreciated spots. Full of medical oddities, including the skeleton of conjoined twins and a series of malformed skulls, this place isn’t for the faint of heart.
Another slightly macabre museum, the Hill-Physick House in Society Hill is home to a rich history and features everything from a surgical museum to a connection to the import of Madeira wine. During the winter, it’s appointment only, but go in the warmer months and check out the beautiful garden.
Eastern State Penitentiary stands as a fortress in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, a long-unused penitentiary that focused on solitary confinement and is the subject of plenty of analysis about mass incarceration in the United States. Tour during the day or visit their annual Halloween tours, if you dare.
If you really must see the Liberty Bell but don’t want to wait in lines to head inside the building, here’s an easy secret – you can sidle up to a window at the Liberty Bell Center and simply peek inside.
For a stunning skyline view, head to the Schuylkill River Park and wander the boardwalk before going back into Center City – and if the weather’s warm, make it an evening trip so you can see the skyline all lit up.
If you’re wandering through Center City, you don’t need to try very hard to see historical sites. Look up on Market Street near City Hall to see the Wanamaker Building, one of the country’s first department stores that remains one of the city’s best architectural marvels.
Author Edgar Allan Poe lived in Philadelphia for six years and produced several of his best works here, and his house is still available to tour today. Let’s just hope there’s not a tell-tale heart lurking underneath the floorboards.